If you’re a Gen Xer, you probably remember the days of must-see TV lineups in the ’80s and ’90s which included iconic sitcoms like Cheers, Seinfeld, Friends and The Office. Or maybe you’ve spent years watching reruns. David Massoni, the gourmand behind the much-buzzed about The Fox & Falcon restaurant in South Orange, grew up on must-see TV and Cheers is a long-time favorite. As a resident of the tight-knit community of South Orange, Massoni set out to open a culinary destination known for a communal Cheers-like vibe along with exceptional cuisine. And that’s exactly what he’s achieved with The Fox & Falcon, which he opened late last year.
“I really wanted a menu that would complement the warmth and hospitality of a great pub/tavern/restaurant/bar, with the cooking philosophy of Italian Trattorias, French Bistros and Spanish Tapas restaurants,” says Massoni, the restaurant’s owner.
“By far one of my favorite moments every night is when friends run into each other unexpectedly here at The Fox & Falcon,” says Massoni, who lives in the Academy Heights neighborhood of South Orange, just 2 blocks from the restaurant, with his wife and 11 and 7-year-old kids. “My family and I moved here from Brooklyn like so many other recent transplants, and one of the things we missed about Brooklyn was its spontaneity. We hadn’t found that yet here in SOMA, so I guess we just set out to create it. To me, there is nothing better than a night of great food, tasty drinks, and lively conversation, except for if that same night happens unexpectedly!”
Locally Sourced Food and Drinks
But the seasonal, locally sourced menu makes The Fox & The Falcon a culinary destination worth traveling to. On the night we had dinner there, we tried a mix of seasonal dishes along with some of the restaurant’s most popular staples, chief among them being the Fried Fennel, a must-order appetizer made with Dijon tarragon aioli. The Tuna Tartare, prepared with local line-caught yellowfin is another favorite along with the Panzanella Salad, only made when heirloom tomatoes are in season.
Another standout is the Seared Day Boat Sea Scallops, made with a mix of bacon, corn, Yukon potatoes and heirloom tomatoes. Its pure buttery goodness is perfectly complemented by its pan seared exterior and a fresh basil aioli. Pastas are also really good here. All of the restaurant’s noodles are bronze cut, which means they’re slightly coarse in texture which allows them to hold onto their accompanying sauce a little better. Try the Linguine with classic puttanesca sauce or go for the Fusilli, made with a hearty lamb ragu. Because the menu changes seasonally, there are always new dishes to try. Some of the fall standouts include Jerk Chicken Wings made with a yogurt ranch and Grilled Heritage Pork Chops with mustard greens, peaches and a balsamic dressing.
The cocktails are just as special as the food here and each has its own unique personality. The Academy Height Spritz, named after Massoni’s South Orange neighborhood, is made with vermouth bianco, elderflower liqueur, prosecco (yes, please), lime zest and a fresh bit of basil. The Reservation Rye (named after South Mountain Reservation) is another favorite and packs a sophisticated mix of Bulliet rye with Pernod, Peychaud’s bitters and toasted lemon peel garnish. Trust us: You’ll want to try it.
Harkening to Traditional Pub Culture
Of course, the restaurant’s name is also rooted in local lore. “The name ‘The Fox & Falcon’ speaks not only to the old tradition of pubs being named for animals but more importantly to animals here in Essex County,” Missoni says. “The Red Fox and the Peregrine Falcon are two of our region’s most prominent predators and we as Essex County residents see them quite often. To me, the name truly exemplifies a sense of place and a connection to nature.”
One of the most unique attributes of The Fox & Falcon is that it has three levels and each has its own distinct vibe. The ground floor’s Irish Pub, known by locals as The Snug, is ideal for lunch or just to meet up for drinks. “The Snug Bar is very casual and should evoke the feeling of a warm Irish countryside pub,” says Massoni. “The Main Bar is big and bustling and to me feels like a big city bar out here in the suburbs. The Essex Bar is more contemporary and sophisticated with almost a speakeasy aesthetic.” There’s also a private event space called The Essex Room, where the restaurant hosts its events and entertainment. Among them are Wednesday Night Trivia, live music on Fridays, karaoke on Saturdays and Sunday football specials.
We love the restaurant so much that we’re giving away a date night package for two which covers dinner, The Fox & The Falcon signature cocktails and dessert. Who’s in? Head to our Instagram to enter to win. The winner will be announced on our Instagram on October 2. Good luck!